7 Countries with Nearly Free College: Where You Can Study Abroad for Close to Free

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Are you itching to go to college in another country but aren’t sure about the expense? You may be able to study abroad for free. In fact, there are a few countries with free college for American students, plus several more with programs that cost next to nothing. And don’t worry, the courses are in English.

By studying abroad, you can get your bachelor’s degree — without graduating with the average student loan debt of $29,800. Read on to learn about free college in Europe and around the world.

Countries with free college, no strings attached
Countries with nearly free college in Europe
A few other options for low-cost tuition
Should you study in one of the countries with free college?
Student loans for colleges abroad
Earning your bachelor’s degree abroad: Final thoughts

Countries with free college, no strings attached


Have you ever thought about going to college abroad? Not only can you reap the benefits of free tuition, you can travel the world and encounter unique perspectives.

You can find completely free college in Europe if you go to one of the following countries.

1. Germany

As of 2014, Germany no longer charges tuition fees for students, German and international alike. Thanks to its tuition-free policy, more American students study in Germany every year.

Data from the Institute of International Education shows that during the 2016-2017 school year, there were more than 12,500 Americans studying abroad in German universities. Americans aren’t the only ones studying in Germany, either. As of the 2018-2019 school year, Germany had more than 393,000 international students attending its universities, according to Studying-in-Germany.org.

Germany is home to several world-class universities, including the prestigious LMU Munich, Heidelberg University and Humboldt University of Berlin. In fact, eight of Germany’s higher education institutions were ranked among the top 100 international universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.

While you won’t pay tuition if you attend college in Germany, you will have to cover your cost of living. The average international student in Germany spends about 725 euros (just under $800 USD) per month on rent, food and other living expenses. You’ll also pay what’s called a semester contribution that ranges from 100 to 350 euros ($110 USD to $384 USD), depending on your university. This is not associated with tuition but rather covers costs related to student services, student government and, at some universities, public transportation in the area.

If you’re interested, you can learn more through the German Academic Exchange Service.

2. Iceland

Iceland does not charge tuition fees for locals or international students who attend public universities. All you’ll pay is a small registration or an administration fee. For example, the University of Iceland charges a registration fee of around $600 USD per year. While Iceland has seven universities, the University of Iceland is the only one to offer bachelor’s degree programs (only two of which are options for English-speaking students).

Like many other European countries, Iceland is an expensive place to live. Housing costs start around $800 USD per month. Food will set you back an average of $400 USD per month or more.

Learn more about attending college in Iceland through the website Study in Iceland.

3. Norway

Norway’s public universities are tuition-free for international students and local residents. You may have to pay a small semester fee that’s currently less than $100 USD, but otherwise, you won’t spend anything on tuition.

Norway has 22 state colleges and universities, including the University of Oslo, which is ranked No. 131 on the Times Higher Education 2020 world rankings.

Before buying your ticket, though, you should know that Norway has a very high cost of living. The average student budget is more than $1,300 USD a month. What you save in tuition you may end up spending on food, drinks and other living expenses, if you don’t budget carefully.

You can learn more about opportunities to study in Europe through the website Study in Norway.

Countries with nearly free college in Europe


Besides the above countries with free college tuition, there are several other countries with exceptionally low tuition costs.

1. Austria

To study in Austria, American students pay around $800 USD each semester. Schools in the country include the University of Vienna, which is ranked No. 134 in the world by Times Higher Education. Some programs at Austrian colleges and universities are in German, but you can find several that are taught entirely in English.

The cost of living in Austria is generally higher than in the United States. In particular, food prices are somewhat higher, as is the cost of manufactured items.

2. France

France has its fair share of prestigious universities, such as top-ranked Sorbonne, PSL Research University Paris and Ecole Polytechnique. Many French schools teach programs in English.

France’s public universities have some of the lowest tuition fees, and some schools have waiver programs that bring costs down for international students to costs comparable to those paid by students from countries in the EU.

You can expect to pay a decent chunk of change to live in France while you study, though. Expenses will vary widely depending on where you live and how you spend your time. For example, while student housing in a smaller city could be relatively affordable, living in a furnished flat in Paris will likely cost quite a bit. The same goes for transportation costs. Dining out can also add up, as you can expect to pay anywhere from around $10 USD to more than $30 USD for a restaurant meal.

3. Luxembourg

The 6,400-student University of Luxembourg, the only public university in the country, charges 400 euros (about $440 USD) for the first two semesters of study and 200 euros (about $220 USD) for every semester thereafter — even for foreign students. It teaches a range of programs in English, French and German. Its student body is over 50% international, with 125 nationalities represented.

At the University of Luxembourg, you’ll find a uniquely multicultural environment. The college even requires undergraduates to spend one semester abroad. If you decide to study there, you would have a double study abroad experience.

As for cost of living, Luxembourg isn’t cheap. You can get a sense of your budget on the university’s website, where you’ll find the going rate for bus tickets and common grocery items. The estimated monthly budget for students is around $1,230 USD.

4. Spain

Tuition costs at Spanish public universities average between $700 USD and $2,300 USD a year. While most programs are in Spanish, you can find some English programs at universities like the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the Global Business School in Barcelona.

Like many other European countries, the cost to live in Spain varies widely depending on where you’re studying and the lifestyle you choose. Big cities like Barcelona and Madrid could hit your wallet a little harder than smaller ones. As far as food goes, the average student can expect to spend nearly $500 USD a month on meals.

A few other options for low-cost tuition


Beyond this list, you can find inexpensive options in a variety of other countries, including Italy, Malaysia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. To learn more about bachelor’s degree programs all over the world, check out the website Studyportals.

If you’re bilingual, then you have even more options for countries with free college. For instance, if you speak Spanish or Portuguese, then you could study for free — or nearly for free — in Argentina or Brazil, respectively.

Should you study in one of the countries with free college?


While a free college education is a great deal, there are pros and cons to getting your degree abroad.

Pros

  • You’ll likely graduate from college free of student loan debt.
  • You’ll have a unique life experience abroad. Studying in another country is the ultimate way to broaden your horizons far from home . You’ll learn about new cultures and encounter diverse perspectives.
  • You’ll also gain a global perspective, which is valuable in today’s job market. Your time abroad could help your resumé stand out to future employers.

Cons

  • You’ll have to do a lot of research about universities and programs to make sure you’re applying to the right one.
  • Besides going through an unfamiliar application process, you’ll likely need to apply for a student visa. In addition to providing details about your study plans, you may have to demonstrate you have enough money in a bank account to cover your living expenses. (Germany and Norway, for example, both require this.) Make sure you check the visa requirements for your destination country.
  • The university you choose may not have the same kind of name recognition to future employers as an American school. Additionally, certain fields may require a domestic degree.
  • Your options for majors may be more limited than they would be in the States.
  • You’ll have to pay for travel expenses to get to and from a different country. Plus, the cost of living may be higher in a big European city than in a college town in the States.
  • Living in another country requires major adaptability and independence. Going to college is already a major life transition; having to adjust to a new country on top of everything else may be a lot to handle, especially at the age of 18.

Student loans for colleges abroad


Before studying outside of the U.S., you should know that other countries have varying rules for student loans that make college more affordable for residents and international students alike. While some countries (like those on this list) offer free tuition for all or low-cost fees for students from abroad, others may charge based on a student’s projected income.

This means that the more you stand to make with your degree, the more you’ll pay to cover your education. A few other countries, such as Australia, Canada and England, collect student loan payments only after borrowers start to earn enough to pay back what they owe.

Earning your bachelor’s degree abroad: Final thoughts


With the cost of private college in the U.S. averaging between $25,431 and $44,551 a year and public colleges running anywhere between $10,598 to $26,593, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, students are looking for alternatives. Studying in a country that offers free college can save you from paying back student loan debt down the road, plus allow you to get a world-class education and the chance to travel the world.

If you are interested in this option, then do your research, clarify your goals and think about the benefits and challenges of attending free college in another country. Not everyone will enjoy leaving the country for four years. You might prefer to go to college in the U.S. and save up to spend a semester abroad.

You may find yourself with cheap options for college stateside, too, thanks to scholarships and financial aid. Before you decide to go, make sure you’ve found out if you qualify for financial aid. While federal grants don’t apply abroad, federal student loans may be valid, giving you an extra boost to making your dreams of an international education come true.

Emily Long contributed to this report.

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

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College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
 
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3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

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Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


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Students must be enrolled at least half-time at a U.S.-based Title IV, degree-granting college or university.
The borrower or cosigner (if applicable) must have a minimum adjusted gross income of $30,000.

Loan Limits: Minimum loan amount of $1,000.
Maximum loan amount is cost of education less aid received.

Repayment: Standard or graduated repayment options available during repayment; 7, 10, or 15 year term selected by the borrower.
6-month grace period available to borrowers electing a full in-school deferment. 
No prepayment penalty.
Payments may be postponed during repayment by qualifying for an economic hardship deferment.

Cosigner Release: Cosigner release allowed if an account is in current standing, after 36 months of consecutive & on-time payments with a borrower FICO >749 for EDvestinU Private Student Loans and minimum income requirement of $30,000 with no foreclosures, repossessions, wage garnishments, unpaid tax liens, unpaid judgments or other public records having an open balance exceeding $100 during the last 7 years. The borrower must not currently be involved in bankruptcy proceeding or had any bankruptcy filings during the past 10 years and cannot have any defaults on education loans.


5 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: >AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs;.

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7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

FundingU Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.


8 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.66% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.10% to 11.34% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.05% to 11.29% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.20% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (>www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


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Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

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